Jose, 32
Jose, 32

Meet Jose…

“I have lived both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us.”

Incarcerated: 11 years

My life with a face tattoo.
When people see me with a face tattoo, their first thought is “He’s dangerous, he must be a gang member or criminal, he’s up to no good.” They start to be cautious or nervous. They clutch their children and personal belongings and judge me because of how I look. I was a lost kid and selfish. In spite of the consequences, my face tattoos would bring at home and on the streets, I didn’t care about anything except myself. I have a huge letter “P” on my cheek, along with a teardrop. All are gang tattoos and my poor decisions. At first I thought I was cool and everyone respected me. I wasn’t thinking of all the negative things it would bring. I found it extremely difficult to talk with someone. I was always judged by my appearance. I would get pulled over all the time. I would be followed and blamed for everything. Then there’s the gang negativity. I couldn’t walk in certain areas. Gang members would see me and start causing trouble. I couldn’t take my family around or be with them in certain places. When I came to prison, it brought its fair share of problems. It’s ironic, you would think that it would be normal in prison… NO. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always what you think. One good example, I was applying for a job in prison. I met all the criteria and had support from fellow workers. I never had a work-related incident and always had good job reports. Still, I wouldn’t get hired. I remember asking, “Why.” Her exact answer, “You look like a troublemaker and like you’re ready to fight.” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was the biggest load of crap I had ever heard. I was nothing but a good person and a great worker. I had changed my mind set and was humbled. But people who didn’t know me, didn’t know that. After a couple of months and having others protest for me, I was given the chance. Even when I was doing my training, she expressed her opinion and thoughts about me. How wrong she was. A month and a half later, she called me into her office and apologized. She had a false sense of who I was and I proved her wrong. I ended up being one of her best employees. I couldn’t believe it. She was apologizing but that happens when you judge a book by its cover. What she didn’t know, I’m a nice, humble person that made some horrible choices. Friends judged me as well. All my good friends thought of me differently at one point. It’s not until they got to know me, that their perception of me changed. I remember one incident the best. I was at the yard one night when one of my friends came over and started a conversation. We have never truly had a meaningful conversation. I told him that I was going to the parole board soon and asked his advice. Up until then, he thought I was a typical gang banger and didn’t have insight as to what led me here. I explained how everything in my life connected to my crime. I shared why my father was abusive. He told me his perception of me was wrong. Till this day, our conversations and respect for one another are deeper. The point – don’t just assume about us. There are a lot of people that look bad who really are but there are a lot of us as well. People who are good, loyal, loving, happy, humble and great, but just made bad choices. Take it from me, I have experienced both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us. I hope you see us differently. Ask my wife. She thought I was going to break her heart and play with her mind and emotions. She’ll tell you how wrong she was and that I’m the most different person she knows. I love you, babe. But who knows, maybe when I see someone, I’ll judge them and start walking far from them, act more cautious and hold my personal belongings tighter. I just wonder how they would feel?

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